Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The Coming of the Bomb
Readers may want to download and read Getting Ready For A Nuclear-Ready Iran, from the US Army War College. It's a wide ranging discussion of the entire Iranian nuclear weapons issue set within the larger context of nonproliferation strategy. The basic premise is that it probably impossible for the US to stop an Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, short of a full-scale invasion. And once Iran acquires nuclear weapons it will simply be a matter of time before Arab states follow.
Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon may have more than regional significance. It could mark the final end of efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and provide Islamic terrorism with a nuclear deterrent. Islamic terrorism will literally be a Great Power. The study comes to the conclusion that only a regime change will remove the sinister edge from these developments.
An earlier post argued that only a regime change could keep Teheran from getting a nuclear weapon. Since the US Army War College paper cannot envision that happening in the short term, what we are left with then, is a new Cold War with an ideology as strong -- and probably much stronger than -- Marxism in its prime. It's hard to remember, now that the Berlin wall is a relic whose fragments have literally been sold for souvenirs, how perilous a time the Cold War was. It took more than 100,000 American lives on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. On at least once occasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and the Soviet Union came close to the nuclear brink. The difference between the Cold War and the new prospective struggle is that the former was between nations while the latter is between nations and secret societies bound together only by a common hatred.
Diplomats and statesmen since the Treaty of Westphalia had grown accustomed to seeing nothing smaller than nation-states. This conceptual blindness prevented foreign ministries, academics or the United Nations -- the very name a testament to the limits of its sensibility -- from understanding that sub-national units under the banner of a world religion could arise to challenge the established international order. It was simply impossible, and yet it was. In retrospect all the signs were there. Though globalized business, unprecendented mobility, worldwide communications long weakened the prerogative of nations, they were still regarded as supreme. The world grew accustomed to the growing influence of transnational corporations without realizing that the same factors would empower other forms of transnational organization. H.G. Wells described how complacent men could be in the presence of unseen but growing danger.
With a few changes Wells' paragraph could describe the mixture of smug amusement with which the Western intellectual elite watched the growing number of Wahabist mosques, the photography of landmarks, the application for flying lessons and the attendance at courses of nuclear physics by students from older worlds. They laughed, for nothing could threaten the dominion of Western Man, supreme in his socialized state at the End of History. Even after September 11 the only question for many was how soon history would return to normal after a temporary inconvenience. Little did they imagine that the expansion of the European Union, the Kyoto Agreements and Reproductive Rights -- all the preoccupations of their unshakable world -- might be the least of humanity's concerns in the coming years.
posted by wretchard at 6:23 AM | 197 comments
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Grappling with the ayatollahs
John Keegan lays out what sees are the West's options with respect to Iran.
The most interesting thing about the structure of the standoff between the West and Iran is that what chiefly prevents a regime change in Teheran is not the want of means, but the want of will. The ayatollah's fundamental defense lies in the well-founded belief that the United States has expended too much political capital in deposing Saddam to undertake another regime change operation in Teheran. Safety for the ayatollahs does not consist in the assurance that there aren't enough US ground, air and naval units to smash their regime, but in the calculation that no American President would chance it after three years of political pillorying for OIF.
That means that the ayatollahs are safe for so long as nothing occurs to prevent a sudden stiffening in political will in the West. John Keegan is correct when he says that the ayatollahs have military options. What he does not pursue is what should happen if the ayatollahs actually use them. The Iranian regime operates under the unstated, but nevertheless real constraint that in confronting the West it must take care not to go too far. If Iran were to simply quietly acquire nuclear weapons it would be doubtful whether the United States leadership could muster enough political steam to crush the ayatollahs. However, if the ayatollahs were rash or enraged enough to actually strike the West the equation could change overnight.
Both the regime in Teheran and Washington are like Olympic wrestlers grappling within a narrowly bounded mat. The instant anyone should step or be forced outside the mat the buzzer will sound and a new and deadlier match will begin. Unfortunately the boundaries of the arena are invisible to both sides. How far can America push Iran? How far can Iran push America? Iran has the advantage of knowing that the US will stop short of overt military action against them -- for the time being. But it has the disadvantage of not knowing how far it can let Al Qaeda and Hezbollah go without bringing down the spectators from the stands.
This makes the feint the deadliest weapon in the US arsenal. Sending air wings to exercise in Southwest Asia, for example, is something the Iranians will deeply resent. But should they respond -- even if they could? It was said of Admiral John Jellicoe that he was the only person capable of losing the First World War in an afternoon, because as commander of the British Grand Fleet, he could throw away the foundational power of Britain in a single naval disaster. It may equally be said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alone can strip Iran of its invulnerability to military action in a single rash moment. In that sense he is not, as some pundits think, the worst possible leader Iran could have at the moment. On the contrary, this unstable, bellicose man is from another point of view the answer to all his enemy's prayers.
posted by wretchard at 2:38 AM | 184 comments
The approaching war with Iran
How real is the Iran nuclear threat to the United States?
By Ed Haas
01/20/06 "ICH" -- -- If you get your news from the Big Five, the global media conglomeration of Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Bertelsmann AG, Viacom, and News Corporation, which when combined control approximately 90% of the world’s headlines, than there is little doubt that you have been adequately primed with stories regarding Iran’s nuclear power ambitions and the threat that such ambitions represent to the United States. Absent perspective though, these headlines amount to nothing more than fear-mongering hype intended to persuade Americans into supporting the Federal Reserve, U.S. Congress, and Bush Administration once again if they collectively decide that it’s necessary to launch yet another pre-emptive strike in the Middle East under flimsy, if not false pretenses.
The fact is that Iran wants nuclear power. It wants to join a growing list of countries that already enjoy the benefits of nuclear power. Which countries currently have nuclear power plants operating within their borders? The list might surprise you. Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States. According to the Uranium Information Centre there are a total of 441 operable reactors in these countries.
Countries that are exploring or actively seeking nuclear power capabilities include Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam. The countries that are known to have stockpiles of nuclear weapons are Russia, the United States, France, China, Great Britain, Pakistan, and India. Israel is considered a de facto nuclear power by most observers, although it has long maintained that it will neither confirm nor deny whether it has nuclear weapons. North Korea is suspected to have joined the list of nuclear powers in 2005. South Africa once had nuclear weapons but has since reportedly destroyed the weapons, but not the capacity to manufacture them again if necessary.
Given the fact that nuclear power plants are currently operating in 31 countries with 7 more countries in pursuit of atomic energy, is it possible that the United States of America is honestly threatened by Iran seeking nuclear power capabilities? And given the fact that there are currently approximately 31,000 nuclear warheads deployed or in reserve in the stockpiles of eight countries: China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, is it plausibly that Iran, even if it had 20 nuclear warheads, wouldn’t be pulverized if it ever attempted to launch a nuclear weapon against the United States or any of our allies? Nuclear or not, Iran will never be a nuclear threat to the United States. It is a mathematical improbability. According to Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, of these 31,000 nuclear warheads, about 13,000 are deployed and 4,600 of these are on high alert, i.e. ready to be launched within minutes notice. The combined explosive yield of these weapons is approximately 5,000 megatons, which is about 200,000 times the explosive yield of the bomb used on Hiroshima. None of these nukes are in Tehran’s control. With this perspective intact, is it possible that the United States of America is really threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambitions? It does not seem possible, yet the propaganda machine is churning out battle cries daily that do not match reality. That’s what propaganda is, words masquerading as news that defy and deny reality.
The truth be told, Iran’s current nuclear ambitions, whether for peaceful purposes or not, do not pose any greater threat to the United States then when Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1988. Prior to Pakistan becoming a nuclear power, Muslim countries in the Middle East were surrounded by non-Muslim nuclear powers. Therefore, beginning in 1970’s, Pakistan viewed the development of a nuclear bomb as its last resort and only defense against being invaded by India or the Soviet Union. There are many historical indications that Pakistan was most likely correct in its assessment regarding the need to become a nuclear power. In 1979, when Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union, Pakistan feared becoming a future target of Soviet aggression. To make matters worse, in 1980, Pakistan was told that the United States would not commit forces to defend Pakistan if the Soviet Union invaded. This lack of support from the United States made any claimed alliance between Pakistan and the United States doubtful in the eyes of the Pakistani people, and only increased Pakistan’s urgent approach towards becoming a nuclear power.
Although relations between Pakistan and the United States have improved significantly since September 11, 2001, it is a matter of fact that Pakistan played a vital roll in helping Iran and North Korea advance their nuclear programs during the 1990’s. In other words, without Pakistan’s assistance, it is likely that the Iran nuclear hysteria would not be possible today. Regardless of past cooperation between Pakistan and the nuclear pursuits of Iran and North Korea, the rhetoric suggesting that a future nuclear-powered Iran presents a clear and present danger to the Middle East and the United States simply cannot be substantiated when measured against the number of countries that currently operate nuclear power plants and the staggering amount of nuclear warheads stockpiled around the world that are controlled by the United States and its allies.
The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States clearly demonstrated the positive power to be found in fearing a nuclear counterattack. If either the Soviet Union or the United States would not have been a nuclear power during the Cold War, it is reasonable to suggest that the country possessing nuclear warheads would have invaded the one that did not, thus making the Cold War, hot. The governments of India and Pakistan intensely distrust if not despise each other, but knowing that each side has nuclear weapons has restrained either side from launching all out invasions on the other ever since both became nuclear powers. In both the Soviet Union vs. United States and India vs. Pakistan nuclear showdowns, President Ronald Reagan’s tactical strategy, “Peace through superior firepower” proved flexible enough to withstand being minimized to “Peace through similar firepower”, and remain a fundamental truth.
It is worth noting that during the 1990’s, Pakistan considered Iran as its closest regional ally. However, times have changed this alliance. Iran is now a fundamental Shiite haven with a government to match. Pakistan on the other hand is sliding toward an ideological Sunni state. Shiites are outraged by Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States, with most viewing the Unites States / Pakistan relationship as an unholy alliance that amounts to nothing less than blasphemy. If tensions between Iran and Pakistan escalate as expected, then Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon will mirror Pakistan’s urgency to develop a nuclear weapon in the 70’s and 80’s to defend itself against a nuclear India.
Iran also knows what the world knows but Israel will not admit; that Israel is a nuclear power with an overwhelmingly decisive military advantage over Iran. Iran might spout words of hate towards Israel, but they do not dare launch missiles, because unlike the United States, Israel doesn’t fight wars for oil. It fights wars for survival, and will not hesitate destroying Iran’s oil reserves if it determines such military actions to be tactically advantageous.
The bottom line is that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are well documented and have existed for more than two decades. Pakistan played a vital role in advancing the nuclear capabilities of both Iran and North Korea in the 1990’s. As Pakistan moves closer to the United States, and with 130,000 U.S troops in Iraq, Iran is being pushed into a weapon of last resort scenario similar to that of Pakistan when India became a nuclear power. In January 2006, the Big Five media conglomeration has fired up the propaganda presses and aggressively started churning out the Iran Nuclear Threat headlines at an alarming pace, even though there is really nothing new about Iran’s 20-year-old nuclear ambitions. When measured against the list of 31 countries that currently operate nuclear power plants, the 7 that are pursuing nuclear power, the 31,000 nuclear warheads already distributed around the world, the fact that Israel is a nuclear power, and the United States having 130,000 troops in neighboring Iraq while building permanent military installations faster than George Bush can say 9/11, nuclear or not, Iran is of no military consequence to the United States or Israel, and it will not be for generations to come, if ever.
If Iran’s desire to have access to nuclear power is old news, which it is, then why is it being splashed as breaking headlines across the world? Why now? What has happened thus far in 2006 that was not happening in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005? Did uranium enrichment equipment and facilities suddenly and surprisingly appear on the Iranian landscape? Is Iran’s announcement that it has restarted its uranium enrichment research; the Big Five called it breaking the seals on its uranium enrichment equipment, which sounds vaporously spooky, when all it really means is that Iran unlocked the doors of the facilities that house the uranium enrichment equipment and turned the lights on once again; is this action an actual threat to the security of the United States of America? No, it is not.
So what is it? What is Iran doing that has the Big Five, the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel, U.S. Congress, and the Executive Branch Bushians urgently leading the misinformed American people down the road of “we found those weapons of mass destruction we were looking for in Iraq, in Iran”? If Iran’s nuclear ambitions don’t add up to the propaganda, which it does not, what does?
In a December 16, 2005 Associated Press article, President Bush said that Iran is a “real threat” to the United States and called on Tehran to “prove it does not seek nuclear weapons.” Sound familiar? Just a few years earlier, Bush challenged Iraq to prove it didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Saddem Hussein said that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. But how do you prove you don’t have something? Vilified and scorned U.N. Weapons Inspector, Scott Ritter repeatedly told the Big Five that Iraq did not have active weapons of mass destruction programs prior to the Bushians launching its pre-emptive strike.
The truth is that Iran stands about as much chance of convincing President Bush that they are not seeking nuclear weapons as the nineteen men and women convicted in 1692 by the Massachusetts Puritans for practicing witchcraft did in convincing the Puritans that they were not witches. The Executive Branch Bushians know that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are of no real threat to the United States, but believe that Americans will take the nuclear threat bait. Either way, the Executive Branch Bushians, along with the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel, and the U.S. Congress, need this new lie to stick firmly in the minds of approximately half of the population of the United States so that it can go about the business of thwarting the real threat that Iran posed to the United States. And yes, Iran does pose a real threat to the United States, a clear and present danger far worst than anything the Big Five is reporting. Why the Big Five is not reporting on the real economical “nuclear bomb” that Iran already possesses serves as evidence to the intuitive American that this unspoken threat is absolutely real. In March 2006, Iran will break the seals on its Iran Oil Bourse.
If you are not familiar with the Iran Oil Bourse, you need to Google it promptly. Thankfully, many reporters, commentators, and scholars that operate in the 10% zone not controlled by the Big Five have wrote outstanding articles and analysis regarding the true implications of the Iran Oil Bourse. In fact, there seems to be a new article on the subject, released daily. On January 15, 2006, Krassimir Petov, Ph. D. wrote The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse. His analysis: the proposed Iranian Oil Bourse will accelerate the fall of the American Empire. His qualifications: Petrov received his Ph.D. in economics from Ohio State University and currently teaches Macroeconomics, International Finance, and Econometrics at the American University in Bulgaria. In his article, Petov recommends reading two works by William Clark: The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War in Iraq, and The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target.
Here are the key points made by Krassimir Petov, Ph. D. in his report: The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse
· The Iranian government has finally developed the ultimate “nuclear” weapon that can swiftly destroy the financial system underpinning the American Empire
· The weapon is the Iran Oil Bourse slated to open in March 2006
· With the opening of the Iran Oil Bourse:
o Europeans will no longer have to buy and hold U.S. Dollars in order to secure payment for oil. They will be able to purchase oil with their own currencies, the euro.
o The Chinese and Japanese will be especially eager to adopt the Iran Oil Bourse because it will allow them to drastically reduce their enormous dollar reserves and diversify with euros, thus protecting themselves against the depreciation of the U.S. Dollar.
o Russians have an inherent economic interest in adopting the euro because the bulk of its trade is with European countries
o The Arab-oil exporting countries also need to diversify against the rising mountains of U.S. debt notes – the depreciating dollar
What the Iran Oil Bourse means to the average American is that suddenly, hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars will become unwanted around the world. In essence, the money supply will double or triple. When supply outweighs demand, prices go down – except when dealing with currency. When money supply exceeds demand, prices go up. Its called inflation – the hidden tax brought to the U.S. taxpayer courtesy of the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel and our friends in the U.S. Congress. Imagine if every Americans income doubled in next week’s paycheck. Do you think prices for goods and services would decrease, remain the same, or increase? If you think they would decrease or remain the same, can I interest you in a hot stock I’m selling called Enron?
Another way to think about the U.S. dollar is in terms of a company stock. Speaking of Enron, when the truth about this company’s finances hit the street, what happened to the value of the stock? It plummeted. Why? In theory, the news of false financials didn’t directly cause the stock value to drop. It dropped because there were more sellers than buyers. From its highs of $90 per share, Enron quickly became worthless in the span of a few weeks. Everyone who held shares of Enron, simultaneously sold their stock, and there was nobody willing to buy the shares. The situation with the U.S. dollars is very similar. If enough people and countries stop holding U.S. dollars, the value of the dollar in your wallet will plummet. The greenback will go the way of the Continental. In 1775 the Continental Congress authorized the issuance of paper money to finance the American War for Independence. These notes, known as "Continentals," would be redeemable only after the colonies won their independence. Overprinted and distrusted by the public, they declined rapidly in value, giving rise to the popular expression "not worth a Continental."
So what are the real options that the United States of America has to protect its security and financial stability? Option A is to believe the Big Five propaganda machine financed by the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel that prints our funny money, and take our chances with invading Iran to thwart the March 2006 launch of the Iran Oil Bourse. To some that might sound appealing, but such action will not change the fact that our federal government has been operating on a Federal Reserve credit card, which has no credit limit, for so long that We the People now have a $8 trillion dollar national debt. The Federal Reserve Banking Cartel loves this enormous debt because it represents interest payments from the U.S. taxpayer to its network of private corporations. The ability of the federal government to tax incomes, on behalf of the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel, before the wage earner ever receives his or her paycheck, makes hard-working men and women slaves to the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel. The U.S. Congress supports using the citizenry as collateral for its wayward spending, for without the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel accepting as collateral, the birth certificates of American citizens and the potential, future taxable wages that they represent, the federal government could no longer finance its 1174 federal agencies and the payroll associated with 4.3 federal employees.
Option B is to abolish the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 immediately, eliminate seventy-five percent of the 1174 federal agencies and the millions of federal mandates they represent, seize all gold held by the banking cartel, allow the cartel member’s financial institutions to collapse while forgiving all debt owed to the cartel, return the printing and coining of money to the U.S. Treasury, eliminate fractional and fiat money schemes, and return our currency to a commodity backed system such as gold and silver. Finally, there is need to amend the Constitution of the United States of America so as to abolish the 16th Amendment and add language that would prevent the federal government of the United States from deficit spending or operating with a national debt ever again.
There really are no other options, and March 2006 is fast approaching. This is not a doomsday scenario. It is fact. The fiat money scheme run by the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel is about to collapse. Meanwhile the President of the United States, the U.S. Congress, Federal Reserve Banking Cartel, and the Big Five media conglomeration are so fearful of the court of public opinion in the United States, that they will not even utter the words, Iran Oil Bourse.
On a personal note: I have two sons, ages 18 and 15. I myself am a veteran who served ten years in the United States Marine Corps. Arguably, we are all hawks. There are wars worth fighting, and there remain causes worth dying for in defense of the United States of America. Sustaining the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel, a failed fiat money scheme, and a federal government out of control, is not one of them. Fighting against the Federal Reserve Banking Cartel, a failed fiat money scheme, and a federal government out of control, is.
It’s time for the We the People of these United States to spread the word and truth regarding the real threat Iran poses to the United States, and act boldly to fix our own government and money system so that we no longer are required to fight wars to maintain the stability of our own currency.
 Uranium Information Centre, Melbourne, Australia, World Nuclear Power Reactors 2004-06, January 4, 2006, http://www.uic.com.au/reactors.htm, [Accessed January 17, 2006]
 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nuclear Stockpiles, http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issue...stockpiles.htm#, [Accessed January 17, 2006]
Ed Haas is a freelance writer and author originally from Mt. Penn, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in beautiful Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. To learn more about Ed's work, please visit craftingprose.com. http://www.craftingprose.com
The Case for Invading Iran
by Guest Author at January 19, 2006 01:24 PM
by Thomas Holsinger
America has come to another turning point – whether our inaction will again engulf the world and us in a nightmare comparable to World War Two. This will entail loss of our freedom as the price of domestic security measures against terrorist weapons of mass destruction, though we might suffer nuclear attack before implementing those measures. The only effective alternative is American use of pre-emptive military force against an imminent threat – Iranian nuclear weapons, which requires that we invade Iran and overthrow its mullah regime as we did to Iraq’s Baathist regime.
All the reasons for invading Iraq apply doubly to Iran, and with far greater urgency. Iran right now poses the imminent threat to America which Iraq did not in 2003. Iran may already have some nuclear weapons, purchased from North Korea or made with materials acquired from North Korea, which would increase its threat to us from imminent to direct and immediate.
Iran’s mullahs are about to produce their first home-built nuclear weapons this year. If we permit that, many other countries, some of whose governments are dangerously unstable, will build their own nuclear weapons to deter Iran and each other from nuclear attack as our inaction will have demonstrated our unwillingness to keep the peace. This rapid and widespread proliferation will inevitably lead to use of nuclear weapons in anger, both by terrorists and by fearful and unstable third world regimes, at which point the existing world order will break down and we will suffer every Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation.
Iran has dramatically shortened the time required to acquire the necessary weapons-grade fissionable materials by purchase abroad of pre-enriched, but not yet weapons-grade, fissionable materials (not just from North Korea). Iran’s technicians already have the expertise to fabricate functional nuclear weapons. The latter opinion is held by, among others, Mohamed El Baradei, director-general of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, who said that Iran can produce nuclear weapons in a few months if it has the requisite weapons-grade fissionables: "And if they have the nuclear material and they have a parallel weaponization program along the way, they are really not very far—a few months—from a weapon."
It normally takes years to produce the highly purified fissionables required for nuclear weapons – that is the only obstacle after Pakistan let its nuclear weapons program director sell the knowledge of weapons fabrication to anyone with enough money. All estimates alleging that it will take Iran years to produce nuclear weapons assume that they will do so from scratch, but that is not the case. Iran purchased pre-enriched fissionables with the intent of “breaking out” in a short period to a fully stocked production “pipeline” of fissionables under enrichment at all stages of the process, from “yellowcake” at the low end to almost ready at the high end.
It is possible, and in my opinion has already happened, that Iran has purchased enough nuclear materials from North Korea to fabricate a few nuclear weapons and facilitate the following strategy. Iran could minimize the duration of a “window” of vulnerability to pre-emptive American or Israeli attack between their first nuclear tests (or announcement that they have nuclear weapons), and possession of enough nukes to deter attack, by postponing the announcement and/or first tests until they have a full-speed production line going – everything from enriching fissionables to weapons-grade and fabricating those into nuclear weapons, to stocks of finished nuclear weapons. At that point most or all of the latter will likely be of North Korean origin, but those will be quickly outnumbered by made-in-Iran ones under final assembly at the time of the announcement. I believe this is the plan Iran is following, and that the announcement will come late this year.
The recent spike in world oil prices gave Iran’s mullahs billions of dollars more in hard currency for use in acquiring material for their nuclear weapons program. The timing of their ongoing breakout to public nuclear weapons capability, and the public threats of Iran’s president, indicate that some recent event has given them additional confidence here. I feel this was their purchase of enough nuclear weapons materials from North Korea to fabricate a few nuclear weapons. They might have bought fully operational North Korean nukes. Such North Korean complicity carries other implications.
Whatever the reason, Iran’s mullahs no longer seem to feel a need to wait for final processing of fissionables, and fabrication of those into nuclear weapons, before their nuclear deterrent against the United States is ready. They act like they presently have that deterrent, and are proceeding to backfill their fissionable processing and weapons fabrication line before announcing that they have nuclear weapons. America’s election cycle plus the Bush administration’s fictitious budget estimates might also have a role in the timing of this announcement.
Those who have considered the consequences of Iran’s open possession of nuclear weapons (as opposed to covert possession) have generally focused on its avowed threats against Israel and the United States. Those are certainly enough grounds for pre-emptive attack by both – Iran’s mullah regime is the one government in the entire world whose possession of nuclear weapons would most pose a direct and immediate threat to America and Israel.
Iran’s mullahs will use nuclear weapons as a shield against foreign attack while they more openly support terrorism elsewhere. American acquiescence in Iranian nuclear weapons will lose the war on terror by ceding terrorists a “privileged sanctuary” in Iran. We’ll have let terrorists have in Iran what we invaded Iraq to stop. The invasion of Iraq will have been a complete waste of effort, and our dead in Iraq will have died in vain.
The chief threat of Iranian nukes, however, is what they will lead to elsewhere – something which will make all of the above trivial by comparison, something which will go on and on long after Iran’s mullah regime is overthrown by the Iranian people.
If the United States does not forcibly prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, every country in the area will know to a moral certainty that they cannot rely on the United States for protection against Iranian nuclear attack, or Iranian nuclear blackmail in support of domestic opposition to the generally shaky regimes of the Middle East. American prestige and influence there will collapse. If we won’t protect ourselves by pre-emption, we can’t be relied on to protect anyone else.
So every country within reach of Iranian nuclear weapons will have enormous strategic pressure to develop their own nuclear weapons to deter Iranian nuclear threats. As a recent strategic survey noted, Syria has many times the per capita and absolute GDP of North Korea, and Egypt several times the per capita and absolute GDP of Pakistan. If North Korea and Pakistan can develop nuclear weapons, so can Syria and Egypt, and also Saudi Arabia, all three of whose regimes are shaky. And they won’t be the only countries to develop nuclear weapons after Iran does - many more will join the nuclear “club” within a few years, some within months.
All of those countries having nuclear weapons will create a security nightmare – at some point terrorists will be able to buy or steal some (assuming that Iran doesn’t first give a few to favored terrorist groups). It is likely that at least some will use their nuclear weapons on each other, or in a domestic coup or factional fight. The latter might first happen in Iran.
Few have any idea of the degree to which international trade and prosperity relies on free movement of goods between countries. Container cargo is an ideal means of covertly transporting terrorist nuclear weapons. Once the first terrorist nuke is used, international trade will be enormously curtailed for at least several months for security reasons, and the entire world will suffer a simultaneous recession.
It won’t stop there, though. These same security precautions, once implemented, will significantly impede future economic growth – a ballpark estimate of reducing worldwide growth by 20-30% is reasonable. Consider the worldwide and domestic effects over a twenty-year period of a one-quarter across the board reduction in economic growth.
This will be just from security precautions against terrorist nukes –not physical destruction from such use nor, more importantly, the consequences of nuclear wars between or within third world states. Physical destruction from these will be bad enough, but that pales compared with the social and consequent economic effects – enormous tides of refugees, economic collapse and outright anarchy over wide areas.
We cannot avoid that washing over us from abroad even if we manage to avoid terrorist nuclear attack at home, and we are unlikely to be so lucky. Scores if not hundreds of thousands of Americans will likely be killed, and many more injured, from terrorist nuclear devices used in America when so many politically unstable countries possess hundreds of the things.
We better than most can economically afford the thoroughly intrusive security measures required to protect against terrorist nukes when the threat can come from anywhere, as opposed to Islamic extremists alone.
But the price of domestic security, when foreign security fails due to a failure of leadership and will by President Bush, will be something much more precious – our freedom.
Freedom everywhere will suffer due to those same security precautions. The greatest loss of freedom will come in those countries which are freest, i.e., especially America. Especially us.
THIS is what is really at stake – the freedom which makes us Americans.
It is obvious that Iran’s leaders cannot be deterred from developing nuclear weapons. The U.N. won’t stop them. Diplomatic solutions won’t – the mullahs’ bad faith is obvious. Their diplomacy serves the same purpose as Japan’s with us in late 1941 after their carrier attack fleet had sailed for Pearl Harbor - to distract us from the coming attack. We are at that same point now, only we know the Kido Butai is coming and have no excuse for surprise. Iran’s President has openly stated their real intentions. Iranian diplomacy merely lets the willing deceive themselves.
There isn’t time to overthrow Iran’s mullah regime through subversion before the end of this year, and President Bush’s toleration of factional disputes in our national security apparatus means that we lack the capability to do so, period.
Iran seems to be in a pre-revolutionary state such that its mullah regime will collapse from purely domestic reasons within a few years even if we do nothing, but by then it will have openly had nuclear weapons for several years, possibly used them against Israel and/or been pre-emptively nuked by Israel, and widespread nuclear proliferation will have started with all the horrors that will bring.
Only military force THIS YEAR can prevent this nightmare. Bombing alone won’t do it – it will only postpone things, and Iran’s mullahs won’t just sit there while we’re bombing them. War is a two-way street. They have spent years preparing for this conflict, and will try to stop Persian Gulf oil exports. There will also be an instant massive uprising by Iranian-led Shiite militias in southern Iraq.
Half-measures in war only make things worse. If we really want to find out how much Iran’s mullah regime can hurt us, and relearn the lessons of Vietnam, we need only bomb without invading. That will maximize our losses. Those who advocate mere bombing have not considered that Iran might already have some nuclear weapons.
Israel does not have the military capability we do. Israeli air attack against Iran’s dispersed and hardened nuclear facilities will at most postpone Iranian production by a few months. The United States Air Force can postpone it for as long as we keep up the attacks, but the mullahs will counterattack such that we’ll be at war whether we want to be or not, only with no chance of victory while we’re afraid to win.
The only effective way to stop the mullahs from building nukes, while minimizing our losses from their counter-attacks, is to overthrow their regime by invasion and conquest as we did against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
Democratic military experts agreed in a recent Atlantic Monthly article that eliminating Iran's mullah regime with a ground invasion is feasible - they were more optimistic about it than I am (my emphasis:
I believe the durations mentioned in the Atlantic article should be at least doubled – it won’t take us only 7-10 more days to overthrow Iran’s regime than it did Iraq’s, not to mention locating and destroying the known and secret nuclear facilities scattered over a wide area. I feel the Atlantic panel significantly underestimated logistic problems. Our forces must pass through mountains to get to Iran’s capital of Teheran, while getting to Baghdad required passage only through deserts and broad river valleys. Iran is much bigger than Iraq, so our ground forces will have a greater distance to travel, while even minor resistance in mountain passes will cause significant delays.
The Atlantic article concluded that eliminating the mullah regime was feasible – we agree that Iranian ground resistance will be minor, especially compared to our forces’ extreme effectiveness - but the Atlantic panelists felt that the consequences had too high a price. I agree that the occupation campaign afterwards will be much worse for us, in terms of intensity and required manpower, than the occupation campaign in Iraq – they felt the necessary manpower required for several years’ occupation duty would be prohibitive. They did not, however, even attempt to weigh that against the consequences of letting Iran have nuclear weapons, the effects of it already having some, and the probable duration of an occupation campaign. I do. The tradeoffs between the cost of an extended occupation in Iran, and its desirability, change dramatically if we must search for easily concealed, ready-to-use nuclear weapons, as opposed to merely destroying the physical ability to produce them.
I also feel the occupation campaign in Iran will take much less time than the one in Iraq for the following reasons:
(1) Iran has a functioning civil society and democratic tradition while Iraq didn't. The mullahs veto candidates they don't like, more in the past few years than earlier, but the systems and mindset for a functioning democratic society are present.
(2) We can use many of the Iranian army's junior officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel as a cadre for the new democratic regime's security forces. We couldn't do that with Iraq's army as the officers and non-coms were almost exclusively Sunni Arabs aka Baathist regime loyalists, and the mostly Shiite conscripts had almost all gone home.
3) Iran has at least one order of magnitude, and probably several orders of magnitude, less loose explosives than were present in Iraq, for possible use in improvised explosive devices. The mullah regime die-hards will die much faster than the Baathist die-hards in Iraq, because the ones in Iran will be attacking our forces mostly with direct-fire weapons. That is suicidal against American forces.
4) Language and ethnicity differences mean that Al Qaeda's purely Sunni foreign terrorists won't be able to operate much in Iran. The latter operated only briefly in Shiite areas of Iraq - those that didn't leave quickly died horribly at Shiite hands. While there are a lot of Sunnis in Iran, few of those are Arabs - they're Kurds, Azeris, etc.
My rough estimate of American casualties in the conquest and occupation campaigns for Iran, assuming that the mullahs don't nuke us, or use chemical weapons, is that we'd take about 50% more casualties in the first 18-24 months in Iran than in three years in Iraq, mostly in the twelve month period after the initial conquest.
I agree with the Atlantic panelists that the conquest campaign in Iran would, in terms of casualties, cost little more than Iraq’s - several hundred allied KIA. I just think it would take longer.
Everyone I know of with opinions on the subject agrees that the occupation campaign in Iran would be more intense than Iraq's, but Iraq's has seen only about 1700 KIA (or is it total fatalities including accidents?) during the 33 months of the occupation to date. That is about 50 fatalities per month for an average of about 120,000 troops (1 fatality per month per 2400 troops).
If Iran's occupation entails 200,000 men and is twice as intense as Iraq's in terms of casualties, we're looking at 1 fatality per 1200 men per month. 200k x 12 months = 2400k divided by 1200 = 2000 fatalities per year. This is certainly a lot compared to Iraq’s occupation campaign, but it also indicates that American casualties in Iran will be acceptable by any reasonable standard.
In my opinion the occupation campaign in Iran will be awful only for the first year, and then conditions will improve much faster than in Iraq for reasons mentioned above in this post. My guesstimate at this point is about 3000 American fatalities over two years for both the conquest and occupation campaigns in Iran, though the first year would be ghastly.
That Iran may already have some nuclear weapons (IMO this is likely) complicates a prospective invasion. We’d had a plan for several years to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons capability (i.e., the launchers as well as the warheads) – it is called variously “Global Strike” and CONPLAN 8022. The United States Air Force excels at blowing things up.
Consider also, that, if small numbers of Iranian nuclear weapons are enough of a threat to seriously menace an American invasion, they are enough of a threat to merit pre-emptive attack with American nuclear weapons. Get real - our nukes are bigger than theirs, and we have lots more than they do. And if Iranian nuclear weapons aren’t enough of a threat to merit pre-emptive use of our own, they’re not a reason to avoid invading. It is not likely, however, that the USAF will need nuclear weapons to keep the mullahs from getting any off.
Did I mention the bribes? Now is the time for some breathtaking bribes – say a billion dollars per Iranian nuke delivered to us, which would be cheap given the alternative. Once we demonstrate the will to invade and eliminate the mullah regime, such bribes would be more effective than most think. Psychological warfare was wildly successful in the invasion of Iraq.
Fear of possible Iranian nuclear weapons use against an American invasion is not a valid reason for doing nothing. A thousand more American civilians have been killed by enemy action at home in this war than American servicemen killed at home and abroad. Not invading Iran will increase this disparity by several orders of magnitude. We have armed forces to protect our civilians from the enemy, not vice versa – soldiers die so civilians don’t. We will invade Iran to protect the American people from nuclear attack. That is worth the risk posed by Iranian nuclear weapons to American soldiers, and the burden of deploying 200,000 troops there for several years. Our reserves knew when they enlisted that they’d be called up for the duration of a major war. Invasion of Iran to protect America from nuclear attack, and preserve our freedom, counts as a major war.
This would, however, make absolute hash of the Bush administration's quite fictitious future budget estimates, which are the reason why it refused to significantly expand our ground forces after 9/11 though such was obviously necessary. Those phony budget estimates are arguably the biggest obstacle to our invasion of Iran this year. Iran’s mullahs might even have counted on this in timing their breakout to public nuclear weapons possession.
And if we don't invade this year, it won't matter much after that. We'll be in the worst case scenario. And President Bush will be reviled as America’s worst President – the one who through inaction cost us our freedom.
Mutually Assured Destruction kept us all safe during the cold war. as much as both sides talked tough, at the end of the day we all wanted to stay alive.
muslims, on the other hand, welcome death in/during warfare as it is a means to expedite them to their 72 virgins. they want to kill us, and in return, want us to kill them.
my scary-as-hell .02.
MAD was what kept us from nuking each other... MAD is what the Iranians are hoping for!
There is no way to talk them down from that.
You got that right...this type of stuff scares the shit out of me...
So why the FUCK is allowing them to have nukes even contemplated? Let the Israelis loose on them.
israilies will take care of this with out us even asking...
I sure hope the Israelis do take care of this one, Lord knows the lawmakers here are way too pansy for us to do it...
I think that, if you study Revelation, you can come to no other conclusion that, inevitably, there will be nuclear destruction world-wide and there isn't a thing you or I can do about it. It's already in the works and we might as well get comfy until it happens.
Are you right with Jesus yet?? The clock is ticking.
Our Darkening Sky: Iran and the War
by Joe Katzman at January 20, 2006 06:14 AM
"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"
-- G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse
In the wake of Tom Holsinger's article "The Case For Invading Iran," I was going to enter a comment, but it became long enough to deserve a full post. To begin with, it's time to lay my own cards on the table.
I personally believe that we're very likely to see at least 10 million dead in the Middle East within the next two decades, with an upper limit near 100 million. I do not believe pre-emptive action will be taken against Iran. I do, however, believe the extremist mullahs in Iran mean exactly what they say. They are steeped in an ideology that believes suicide/murder to be the holiest and most moral act possible. They have been diligent in laying strategic plans for an offensive Islamic War against Israel, America and the West. Plans backed by 25 years of action, and stated no less clearly than Mein Kampf. I believe that Ahmedinajad's talk of 12th Imam end-times and halos around his head at the UN aren't the ravings of an isolated nut, simply an unusually public (and unusually noticed) expression of beliefs that are close to mainstream within their ruling class. That class of "true believer" imams and revolutionary guard types have been quietly consolidating their control over all sectors of Iranian society over the last few months, and I do not believe anyone in the world today has both the will and the capability to stop them. A key pillar of The Bush Doctrine is about to fail.
At some point within the next decade, therefore, I believe that they will not only have nuclear weapons, but that they will act to make good on their stated beliefs and plans. With eventual "3 Conjectures" level results as noted above. I hope you're all invested in solar, folks, and have some panels up on your houses.
It gets worse.
Truth And Consequences
The proliferation spike among other middle eastern regimes, which Winds of Change.NET has discussed before, will add a complementary and additive risk factor. Especially given the ah... "unstable" nature of the region's regimes and the broad-based Islamist movements and sympathy for terrorism within it. This combination of Iran's direct war plans and the secondary poliferation spinouts means that with a nuclear Iran, the probability of Islamist terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons within the next 2 decades begins to approach 1.0. Welcome to Fibonacci's nukes.
Choices have consequences. Belmont Club:
Indeed. So let us turn for a moment to the (somewhat pro-American, and widely anti-mullah) Iranian populace, whose struggle for freedom has long had my support and that of this blog. Unfortunately, at this late hour we must be clear-eyed and honest - and if so, we must admit that whatever hopes we may have had on that score have proven chimerical.
Let's get real. Whatever they may think of the mullahs, the Iranian people, and such civil society as they have built in the shadows, have no stomach to seriously oppose them. The mullahs have proven that they are quite willing to kill, with their Basij hitler youth corps and al-Qaeda mercenaries, as many Iranians as necessary. Nonviolent measures like the commendable struggle of decent people like Akbar Ganji or even Ayatollah Montazeri are, in this situation, useless.
Despite the scattered attacks etc. noted by This & That in the comments to Tom's article, and the bravery and sacrifice of some Iranian democrats, there is no pre-revolutionary situation in Iran. Its people as a whole have proven that they will be a non-factor in all of this until the die is cast, at which point it will be too late. What I see from them, and much of the exile community as well, is helplessness, a lack of leadership inside or out, a shirking of responsibility for the current situation, and the middle eastern disease of alternately blaming and beseeching others rather than working to acknowledge the situation and committing to solve it. For many reasons of circumstances, culture, and history (see the excellent comment from "Anonymous"), their widespread resentment of the mullahs is a quiescent one. Nor does there appear to be any serious appreciation for the potential consequences of the mullahs' insane atomic adventure.
When your political leadership is made of end-times advocates who preach suicide-murder as a paramount value, plan war, and want nukes, that ain't gonna cut it.
"We mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour?" Not a chance in hell. Unfortunately, history is not kind to those who just drift in its tides. They have their fate shaped by the dreams and fantasies of others - and so hell is probably the climate in store. One can only weep for this... and the greatest tragedy is that one can only weep.
Perhaps if we had acted with greater firmness earlier, the situation might be different. There was, and is, wisdom to waging the war in an order dictated by the situation's logic - but not in abandoning the Iranian front entirely. Perhaps if we had backed the Iranian dissidents to the hilt with a relentless campaign of rhetoric and material support, and worked hard to create a pre-revolutionary situation as a strategic state-level priority in the USA and/or Europe, things might be different. But Europe values riches over rights (and will, in time, have neither), while American action would only happen over the State Department's dead body. Regardless of the obstacles, however, the cold hard fact is that we consistently refused to act - and so we'll never really know.
I tell you naught for your comfort, here, and naught for your desire.
It's 2006, and here we stand. "Faith without a hope" is now all that is left to us. Faith that someone will step up with a successful Hail Mary play, executed against all odds. That they will somehow avert the nightmare we in the West have so diligently allowed, with our endless appeasement, inaction, and miscalculations, to build on our watch over the last 25 years. Perhaps.
Save that the sky grows darker yet. And the sea rises higher.
Who Will Bell The Cat?
"I bring not boast or railing,"
Spake Alfred not in ire,
"I bring of Our Lady a lesson set,
This - that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher."
Then Colan of the Sacred Tree
Tossed his black mane on high,
And cried, as rigidly he rose,
"And if the sea and sky be foes,
We will tame the sea and sky."
Who will act? Who will move decisively now, even if it means trying to tame the sea and sky?
Tom, Trent, and others believe Israel has the capability to act against Iran. I don't. Iran's facilities are at the extreme ends of Israel's range, too dispersed to guarantee anything but minor setbacks to its program, and in many cases too buried to be affected by Israeli conventional weapons (see Dave Schuler's excellent article for a map of some required routes). As the Federation of American Scientists notes, even nukes offer no guarantees. Worse, even limited nuclear attacks would create a deadly enemy among Iranians at large, one bent on future reply even if the mullahs were to fall.
One might recall the ancient Persian proverb: "one does not wound a king."
Which leaves ending Iran as Israel's only real option. As I've stated before, a broad Israeli nuclear attack on Iran would essentially end Israel anyway by leaving it in an unsustainable and untenable global position, its alliance with America damaged terribly and its important economic markets in Europe closed to it. That is a recipe for defeat in the medium term, let alone the long term. As such, I strongly believe that a nuclear strike will not be conducted pre-emptively. Instead, it will be saved as part of a "Samson Option" response.
I'll add that if the Israelis ever do decide they're finished and proceed to pull down the temple, Iran won't die alone. To restrict the retaliation to Iran would be to make Rasfanjani's boast - that the heart of Islam would live on while Israel would not - true. It would, with a stroke, legitimize Iran's entire end-times calculus. It would also fly in the face of long-stated Israeli policy.
Just so everyone understands the stakes. And as I've pointed out before, this whole thing could easily be set off by something as simple as a software glitch.
Tom, Trent, and others also believe the USA has the will to act. I don't. Perhaps a united America with strong and persuasive leadership, resolute in war and without an internal fifth column, could do it. But, to borrow a phrase, you go to war with the country you have. Not the one you wish you had. Dave Schuler does a great job outlining the present "options," none of which are likely to be effective. Force, of whatever kind (N.B. armed subversion is also force) is the only thing that will stop the mullahs now.
Despite recent brave talk of American capacity from the Secretary of the Army, the brute fact is that the US does not have this on anything resembling a sustainable basis. The failure to decalre war and mobilize after 9/11, in order to make the stakes clear and create a strategic reserve for action, has become the defining strategic mistake of the Global War on Terror phase. It is likely too late to reverse that mistake in time. Should the USA act now, therefore, it will have to be with every scrap of the reserve forces it has left for other contingencies, and then some - and everyone in the world will know it. With predictable consequences.
Will the US act anyway, to tame the sea and sky if need be? Perhaps. One can never rule anything out. W., whatever his failings, has always been willing to at least attempt the things he says he'll do. He also displays a consistent tendency to hesitate at critical moments after having begun, but that's another story. So let's assume America does what Tom recommends, drawing its terrible swift sword to cut the gordian knots of Iran's Great Game.
What's in store then?
Attacking the Mullahs: My Choice
My preferred option for a strike would be to end Iran's oil and gas distribution capabilities, destroy its power infrastructure (critical for nuclear efforts), keep those things down, and hit what targets one can among the weapons programs. Let their economy collapse, let the Europeans and Chinese feel the price of their inaction and encouragement as oil spikes, and promise the Iranians massive reconstruction aid and help if they'll only overthrow the mullahs and renounce their pursuit of nuclear weapons. I'd do this shortly after the 2006 mid-terms, of course - I've read my Machiavelli.
In response to a Hobbesian choice forced on me, I would offer one of my own to the Iranians. Starve in the dark (already closer than one would think for many there, hence prostitution through the roof and other indicators), lose all you have earned (hits the critical Bazaari class), or take the risk and be free and we'll help you. Your call. Meanwhile, lack of power and oil makes it kind of hard to run a weapons program.
There is no one in the world who can stop America if it chooses to do this.
Not Russia, pure opportunists who will not even impair their commercial relations, let alone go to war over this.
Not China, who lacks any meaningful capacity to act here and can't afford to lose face with a very public failure, can't slow the economic growth it needs to keep its population happy (to which US trade is the #1 contributor), and may see investment and influence opportunities in the aftermath.
Not the hollow men of Europe, who have no real chips to bargain with either of cooperation or sanction. Even a trade war is not a wise thing for any politician who wants to remain elected, given Europe's already-high unemployment and low-growth economies.
Not the Saudis and oil producers, who need the currency flow to keep their own populations in line and pay debt and who must, therefore, keep sales into the (non-divisible) global market high. Yes, even El Caudillo Chavez - why do you think he's the USA's #5 oil supplier now?
As for any terrorist attacks elsewhere, they're unfortunate but acceptable wartime casualties against a mad and unprincipled enemy who refuses to fight in the manner of men. The the price of inaction, after all, is the likelihood of much larger future casualties at a level that truly is unacceptable.
Attacking the Mullahs: Evaluating Tom's Choice
Tom chooses invasion, though I suspect his "standing start" option includes most of what I have above. Likewise, I expect that his escalation would halt if the warm-up approach worked. The thing is, if my kind of outline doesn't work, then his kind of plan is necessary. There can be no stopping half-way once this starts.
So it's in for a penny, in for a pound. Action against Iran would have to plan and prepare for Tom's option, even if one believed lesser measures like the ones mentioned above would work.
In terms of Tom & Trent's assessment, therefore...
I think it's a fantasy to expect anything other than a sustained terrorist campaign from the moment US forces cross the border. There are far, far too many of them in place. Legions have trained there and lived for quite some time, with a level of infrastructure and state support that Saddam never came close to matching. Iran can also rely on reliable proxies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Anarchy... and, in the judgment of a number of counter-terror experts, the United States.
In terms of the immediate military operation, this will be costly. Likely bearable, but the mountainous areas of Iran could create real trouble and holdups, and one must expect that. Ultimately, however, I concur with Trent and Tom that it would not stave off the defeat of the Iranian regime. Iran has two of every military branch, with one made up entirely of zealots (including even its air force), but they cannot stop the Americans if the US goal is to strike rather than occupy. Meanwhile, the regular Iranian Army would be very likely to pull a Saddam's Army Act by disintegrating and going home.
The trained terrorist factor does have one important corollary, however: if the US does move to invade Iran, an occupation or reconstruction would border on insanity. To believe anything else is, in my opinion, delusional. The US would face a security situation whose size and intensity would far outstrip Iraq. It does not have the forces required for that, and may not be able to get them in time even on a declaration of war/ full war footing.
Therefore, it must not play that game.
Instead, the game is fast, full-on war. The USA's stated goals should be to kill as many members of the Iranian regime and governing apparatus as possible (yes, their deaths are a secondary war goal - one does not leave such people alive to try again), terminate the regime, head straight for the locations relevant to the program, clean them out, stay about a month or two to gather intelligence and make sure, then go home. I'd even recommend announcing this shortly after operations begin, since the explicit purpose of this war and situation on the ground are very different from Iraq.
The state of Iranian society is ultimately their problem, not the USA's. The US made Iraq its problem because it chose to as part of a larger strategy, not because it had to. If one believes that was a mistake, then the USA must not repeat it. If one believes that it wasn't, then the facts on the ground remain and replicating it in Iran is not possible. Finally, one may note Iran could not possibly become a worse terrorist haven and base of support than it already is. As such, no possible end-state outcome is worse from America's perspective.
Absent either the capability or a compelling rationale, America needs to be absent from any long post-war phases in Iran.
This would sharply limit the costs and commitment involved in US action, while making the global lesson to others loud and clear. Indeed, this would be far scarier than the invasion of Iraq - because if the USA is happy to just kick down your door, break you, and leave, there really is no Third World tyrant's response that works.
Reality Bites: Armageddon Calling
Do I believe any of this will happen? No.
We are not now that strength which in the old days moved earth and heaven. That which we are, we are. And nothing short of repeated, mega-scale tragedy is likely to change that.
Can we avoid war, then? No.
It takes only one to fight, and Iran made its choice long ago. As a Middle Eastern Forum article notes: "Political problems can be resolved through diplomacy, but the ideological underpinnings of a hostile regime cannot." That has not changed, indeed has intensified, and so there will be war. The only question remaining is when, of what nature, and on whose terms.
Whether we like it or not. Indeed, whether we acknowledge it or not. The Forever War is not about us. The only part that is about us is our choice: do we choose victory, or commence our civilization's end at whatever pace fortune exacts? As regards Islamofascism and the current parlous state of our civilization, there exists no middle ground.
The key question of our time is not whether we wish to be at war with the Islamic world. It is whether the Islamic world, or large elements within it, wish to be at war with us. As they have chosen to be at war with so many others. Belmont Club:
Are there enough of their Muslim compatriots who are prepared to stand up and avert the Grand War, judging the risk of inaction to be greater? Are there enough of us, on this side of the war, to act in time? Or do we all face The Islamic War - either now, or soon, or in an even worse future where a nuclear shield for Islamofascism enables something even more troubling?
I do not know.
As regards Iran, however, I do know this: the sword will be drawn. The only questions left as whose, and when, and where.
As things now stand, I do not believe the answers to these questions will be to our advantage.
"And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world's desire
'No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.' "
Then silence sank. And slowly
Arose the sea-land lord,
Like some vast beast for mystery,
He filled the room and porch and sky,
And from a cobwebbed nail on high
Unhooked his heavy sword."
Did I mention Dave Schuler's excellent Jan 15/06 summation "Options on Iran II"? Yes? Well, I'm mentioning it again.
Arms Control Wonk says Iran is still 3-10 years away from a bomb, and explains the reasoning & calculations. His second post looks at the ranges and types of Iran's missiles. Good explanation of the enrichment process, and shows his calculations which gives us a solid starting point for discussion. Via Defense Tech, who has more.
Dadmanly, back from his tour in Iraq, has a fine post with his thoughts: The Problem of Iran.
Hard Starboard offers "The End of the Digital Age & The Start of the Dark Age." Which is pretty much where I'm at. He has some good links and sources I don't, and his brief but telling takedown of the left-lib position on this issue is worth it. But then, we saw the same dynamics re: Pakistan this week, too. Copperheads, v2.0, and a big part of the reason I'm a pessimist. W. is no Lincoln, certes - but would one good improv impression be too much to ask?
Marc 'Armed Liberal' Danziger responds with "Just A Second – It's Not That Dark Yet (And We Have A Really Big Flashlight)". I think his reasoning makes the very things he most fears more likely rather than less, but go read for yourself and discuss.
All Things Beautiful has a picture you have to see to believe. She then adds some solid coverage of the Euro angle, and says: "European-style appeasement, partly motivated by a desire to pull faces at Washington, has encouraged the most radical faction in Tehran and helped bring Ahmadinejad to power. All the diplomatic gesticulations that are likely to follow will only compound that effect...."
Ohhhhh why didn't we nuke moscow BEFORE Hiroshima !! The difference in world history with a free Russia after '45 is nearly impossible to fathom.
Iran has no ICBMs so it isn't like they could rain nukes over the US as the Soviets could.
Iran's (or an muslim group's) "strike" capability against the US is relegated to backpack nukes, which will not be easy to deploy, but I do believe that it's only a matter of time before one is set off. Probably in a large eastern city, which is another reason why I avoid them.
But.. the US has already stated that any NBC attack on the US or it's troops will result in the harshest of responses. I am inclined to believe that if an attack was perpetrated against the US, Tehran would be burned to a crisp.
The one key factor in all of this is visibility of target. Now, Tehran can be held hostage as the likely suspect in the event that even a radical group from say..... Myanmar detonates a suitcase bomb on US soil. Our retaliation would be the same.... poof goes Tehran.
Reuters carried story that France was prepared to retaliate against any nation which launched a terrorist attack upon it with nuclear weapons.
The obvious target of the warning was Iran. But how effective is a conventional deterrent against a state which might sponsor terrorist proxies armed with nuclear weapons? At a discussion at the Confederate Yankee one commenter said:
The terrorist "suitcase nuclear weapon" is the nightmare scenario often invoked to explain why such weapons should never be allowed to fall into the hands of leaders like President Ahmadinejad. It was this fear which provided much of the rationale for launching Operation Iraqi Freedom. But a closer examination of the suitcase nuke problem suggests that this method of delivery has certain limitations. Let's begin a thought experiment by considering the number of suitcase nukes that would be required to destroy a country like France or the United States.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a somewhat left of center think tank, produced a very respectable model of how many nuclear weapons would be required to inflict damage to the point of diminishing returns, a concept accepted by Robert McNamara at the height of the Cold War. This inflection point is known as the "knee" and occurred where around 25% of the target population was killed. The NRDC recalculated the numbers for the year 1999 with these results; which are probably correct at least to order of magnitude.
Country 1999 population 25% of population No of 375 kt warheads needed to threaten 25% of the population
All NATO Member Countries
According to these figures it will take about 150 nukes to 'destroy' the fabric and cohesion of the United States and about 30 to do the same to France. Note that inflicting this damage will not have any substantial effect the US ability to perform an immediate counterstrike with thousands of nuclear warheads because these are deployed in hardened facilities or on submerged platforms which would survive a paltry (by Cold War standards) 150 warhead strike. But this number would be enough to finish the target nation as cohesive society for decades.
The problem with suitcase nukes is maintaining command and control over them. Any suitcase nuke which could be armed and detonated by its possessor (protected only by a combination detonator just like the movies) would have serious defects as a weapon. This method delegates so much command and control over the weapon to the possessor that it is effectively "his". In our thought experiment, imagine a rogue state providing such weapons to 150 terrorist teams for use against the United States. There would be no assurance that once deployed these weapons would not be stolen or used for unintended purposes. It would be possible for a rogue team to sell the weapon to the highest bidder, perhaps a rival rogue state looking for such devices. It would not be impossible for one of the teams to turn against its masters and use it against them. A team with a suitcase nuke might divert to Switzerland where they could demand the payment of a few billion dollars in exchange for not blowing up Zurich. A suitcase weapon could be captured by the CIA or the Mossad and reimported into the rogue state where it could be detonated against targets who could hardly admit its true provenance. If the teams belonged to rival political terrorist organizations they could be used against each other. Clearly, releasing a large number of suitcase nuclear weapons without positive command and control would be less than ideal and probably disastrous for the wielder.
The most probable workaround to the problem would be to deploy these weapons at a very low rate by sending them out one trusted team at a time. In that way the weapon would be used within a short period and watched, probably by a large number of mutually counterchecking personnel, every step of the way. One nuke to Paris. Boom. One nuke to New York. Boom. The problem with solving the control problem by slowing down the rate of attack is apparent from the table above. One nuke in Paris or New York will be grossly insufficient to finish the infidel enemy but quite sufficient to provoke a massive response. Once the fissile traces are identified ten thousand warheads will be headed back the other way.
The other obvious possibility is to deploy a large number of suitcase nukes in a componentized configuration so that it requires the assembly of several teams, each with part of the requisite firing information or componentry to activate the device. (This is conceptually similar to the two key system on boomers) For example, Iran could deploy 450 teams -- three teams to activate a suitcase bomb -- with the intent of controlling 150 devices targeted at the United States. Unfortunately a force of this size could hardly remain covert for any length of time. The teams security would rapidly "deteriorate" in a deployed environment and would almost certainly be discovered before long. Once discovered the game would be up. The weapons would no longer be deniable and their use would be open belligerency. The suitcase weapons would have no advantage to nuclear bombs delivered by the air force of the rogue nation.
Which brings us back to France. Perhaps the French have calculated that nuclear deniability is ultimately unattainable and are conveying to President Ahmadinejad that 'if you nuke us, you die'.
I should add that the proliferation of suitcase nuclear weapons would be just as much a security nightmare for a rogue state as any other. If Iran could make such a weapon, so could Israel from fissile material obtained from third party sources. If a suitcase nuke went off in Teheran, who would have done it, the Israelis or the Saudis? Both would have an ample motive. A suitcase nuke detonating in Islamabad could point both to Tel Aviv and New Delhi. But likely rogue states, unlike the US, would be vulnerable to a low rate attack -- it will only take 2 or 3 nukes to bring a country like Syria to the McNamara's 'knee'. The suitcase nuke game is not one which always favors smaller powers.
posted by wretchard at 5:20 AM | 181 comments
Suicidal fatalism is not the answer to the problem. In fact its part of the problem.
Yup. A nuclear balance of power only works when both sides have similar thought processes and the best outcome for both is to live in peace (or at least a version of it).
When one side has a fundamentally different way of looking at the world and what "victory" is, you're on shaky ground.
When one side has the idea that dying, taking as many of the enemy is a valid way to "win", you're screwed if you let them get to the point where they can deploy.
Well 'screwed' is relative.
The danger is primarily that we will be held hostage, with devistating economic consequences, through the combination of the fear of losing a few thousand or a million or so Americans at most and the fear of being compared with Hitler, Mao, and Stalin for killing a few HUNDRED million Muslims.
Remember our 4000 odd nuclear weapons ready to go. We could end this any time we wanted to.
But we wont primarily over the fear of how we will be thought of after we not only destroy the Mullahs and their followers but also take their helpless- and in the Islamic World they are TRUELY powerless- women and children with them...
The US is facing a similar problem to that the UK faced at the end of World War II. Having acquired a great empire the British people where then TOO "good", too gentle to use the means necessacary to keep the peace and keep control of their empire. Because they suddenly developed a compunction against killing anybody at any time.
And we cant say that the results for the world have been very good in the Post-Empire world.
The US, after sixty years of damming Hitler, Stalin, and Mao has developed a OVER REACTION to the idea of mass killing. So we are being held hostage now by suicidal people.
Seriously, I have no kids because I do not feel the planet will sustain humans beyond my lifetime. For a lonf time I have felt that the capacity to end all life on earth is within the reach of too many people who have no reservation about using it. With the Russians I had the inner knowledge that deep down Russians loved their children and ultimately didn't want them to die in a nuclear holocaust. That was the final tripwire of the Cold War.
Fanatical Muslims SEND their children to die. That is a difference that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Preservation of the young is one of the most deeply rooted of human desires. When their culture has been corrupted to a point where it turns that instinct off then we have no chance.
how about cliff notes for the ADHD sufferers?
The U.N., simply to spite us (the U.S.), will stall and make excuses right up until the appearance of mushroom clouds over Turtle Bay.
[TeamAmerica] Jesus Titty Fucking!!![/TeamAmerica]
Get some Ridalin and come back, this is too important and requires attention to detail to understand.
SADMs do not come anywhere close to 350kt. Also, by virtue of the fact that they are ground burst, the total destructive power of a blast would be contained.
I worry more about high yeild, shipborne weapons in our harbors.
The President of Iran is a nutjob who thinks he's the Messiah and wants to bring about Armageddon. Some in the know folks are pretty sure they already have nukes. The have a delivery system capable of reaching our troops in theater and Israel.
Isreal is thinking that Iran would make a spiffy parking lot.
If Israel nukes Iran, shit hits the fan.
If Iran nukes Israel, shit hits the fan.
If Iran nukes our troops in theater, shit hits the fan.
Not to mention that invading a nuclear country is a hell of a difficult thing to do.
That's why we invaded Iraq, to keep from having to face a nuclear Sadaam Hussein.
Why we ever allowed a nuclear plant to be built in North Korea or Iran I do not know.
Should we be judging the yeald of someone elses nuclear weapons by what our former ADMs did?
Also, "Suitcase Nuke" should not be taken so litterally, it could be any concealed nuclear weapon not just man portable.
And the left wing think tank that made up that chart was doing it in order to poo-poo the threat- basicly trying to say that we shouldn't worry because we could "stand" to lose 60 Million of our countrymen and not supposedly have the end of our civilization
Wretcherd sort of turned it on its head to show that we could, if we were willing to develop a thicker skin, end the Islamicist threat by largely ENDING the Islamic worlds existance and probably not suffer too much of a disruption in our life style.
Something most people in this country wont think about after 60 years of being taught that Genocide=Evil since the end of World War II. But something we may have to consider when faced with such a large number of suicidal maniacs.
lets nuke them now, No Korea, Too
Great. Now I not only gotta budget for food, water, and ammunition, now I gotta add a fall-out shelter into my backyard and get some NBC gear, like gas masks, geiger counters, dosimeters, hazmat suits... Ugh.
I say we just turn Iran into a glass parking lot here and now and call it a day.
Its a difficut thing to do largely due to psychology.
We are not psychologically prepaired EITHER for killing a large number of people or for losing a large number of casualties and in attacking Iran we might get both- a large number of US troops killed from a nuke and then the onus of being responsible for killing tens or hundreds of millions with our nuclear retalliation.
Throttle back gentle hobbits....
It'll defuse itself.
Depends who is in charge here at the time.
During the Cold War with the Soviets, we always had the assurance of knowing that the Soviets knew that they had something (a LOT) to loose. What do the Iranian have to loose? An even bigger point; what does Radical Islam have to loose? So what if we nuke Iran? The Muslims (and radical Islam) will still have everything that's really important to them; Mecca and Medina and a huge, worldwide population of the faithful along with most of their "culture".
Meanwhile, the Left is preparing the West to commit suicide.
The people who thought all that up probably assumed they would be in a governemnt shelter: the ones developed to preserve the elite and the governing types.
My solution is GAS .
It brings us back to the topics discussed in this old thread of mine
Except the argument is now that through a combination of obstructionism by narrow minded idiots, and bad intelligence on how capable Iran's weapons program WAS, they are years closer to having the bomb than when the US decided to start invading countries and changing regimes to head off this plan.
We no longer have time for the Bush Doctrine to work...
or at least thats what these posts today are arguing
Here's the deal....
1. As long as Israel has nukes, every moderate to fanatical Islamic state is going to want/demand nukes. Islamists needs to get over the fact that the Jews were there first. They can thank Nazi Germany for creating Israel. The Jordanians treated Palestinians like dogs before Israel took over "ownership". The Palestinian cause is merely an excuse.
2. No government, however radical or crazy, is going to turn over nukes to terrorists to do their bidding. That will guaranfreakintee their destruction. I applaud Chirac for coming out and saying that a nuclear response is not off the table if France is ever hit (which, given the rioting in the suburbs in December, is more likely than we thought it was given the discrimination again Arabs/Muslims in France). That's the kind of message we need to bring home to the mullahs. If they want to create a caliphate, there's no caliphate if (1) the land is glowing and (2) there's no one to populate it.
3. What has the Arab world EVER contributed, other than crude oil, to the modern world? They were the keepers of the flame during Europe's Dark Ages. But ever since then, name one significant social or economic contribution they've made.
I can only imagine what our response would be to a terrorist nuke attack in the US. I wouldn't want to be in Tehran, Damascus, or Pyongyang.
China is so tightly packed i dont think it would take that many.
Certainly worth the time it takes to read it.
I was alot happier about 15 minutes ago when I was dumb
I think the mullahs live in Qom...which is why we need to MIRV them...NOW!
OIF is a bomb that has detonated deep within the social structure of Iraq. Unlike air strikes which affect only physical structures, ground involvement creates immense changes in the political and social relationships of the country occupied. Embargos, sanctions and even limited attacks send strong signals to an enemy state, but they leave its inner core untouched. At most they can provide encouragement to a regime's enemies but they cannot directly overthrow it. OIF disturbed international diplomats precisely because it violated the primary rule of the postwar world: that states should remain inviolable. OIF wasn't about sending a signal. It was about destroying and remaking an established state.
That process was tantamount to a huge roll of the dice, for once a state is taken apart there is no telling how it will come together again. Especially a state as critically situated as Iraq: it lay along the Sunni-Shi'ite, Arab-Kurd and Arab-Persian faultlines -- not to mention its place in a key oil-producing region, besides being a stew of tribal politics. Iraq was a kind of geopolitical tentpole supporting a roof under tension. Little wonder that Europe whitened in apprehension as US forces gathered at the Kuwaiti border.
But since neither Europe nor the United Nations could in the end stop the American juggernaut the only realistic remaining course was to master the tides that had been unleashed. The fait was acompli. Precisely what those tides are is still unclear. In my own view the Wahabist groups, while still strong, are now clearly hurting (the Jawa report has the latest reactions in Pakistan to the American airstrike aimed at killed Zawahiri.) and the Mullahs in Iran now feel that their big opportunity has come. The political problem confronting the US political system, with the Bush administration in its waning years and the Democratic Party still committed to a return to the status quo antebellum, is that having gone far enough to upset the regional applecart, it is starting to have second thoughts about handling the forces that have been turned loose.
Oddly enough, it may be Europe which is now belatedly realizing the need to deal with the post-OIF world. Particularly because they have very little effective geopolitical power themselves, Europe's only chance of affecting events in the Levant, the Middle East and Southwest Asia lies in convincing the United States to do it on behalf of the "West". But the American political scene is an strange state of distortion. Perhaps because of its visceral hatred of President George Bush, American liberalism, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, is without a real foreign policy. Howard Kurtz in a Washington Post opinion piece called Dem vs Dem quotes Peter Beinart, who argues that an extreme form of parochialism has kept the Democratic Party from looking past it's nose.
And my sense is that this accusation is largely true. One of the biggest factors of instability in the world today is that the other major political party in the United States has no 21st century foreign policy. Wikipedia, in its survey of American liberalism, notes that the Cold War was fought very much on a bipartisan basis.
Roosevelt, Truman, JFK. The party which dropped the A-bomb, fought the war in Korea, built the Minuteman, started the race to the moon were in the end represented by John Kerry, who began his acceptance to the nomination for Presidency in 2004 with these words (actual audio transcription):
But insofar as the world was concerned his party was missing in action.
posted by wretchard at 2:45 AM | 89 comments
Seriously... this has some major importance for now until the forseeable future.
FWIW- has any of the "regime change from within" stuff Dubya talked about a couple years ago had any impact?
Yes, it has encouraged a crackdown on dissidents and a acceleration of work on nuclear weapons, which they are prepared to use on their own population.
In fact the limitations of their delivery systems requires them to accept that, if the Irainian military itself, and not a terror proxy, uses a nuclear weapon it is most likely going to detonate on Irainian soil.
...in the Pentagon blueprint, officials are once again talking about a futuristic force of robots, networked computers and drone aircraft. And they are planning no significant shift in resources to bulk up ground forces strained by the lengthy occupation of Iraq.
Which neatly amplifies Robin's point that
Now I'm as big a fan of using technology and training to improve our troop's lethality as anyone on the planet. As my military friends point out to me, "The military exists, on a fundamental level, to kill people and blow their shit up."
We're really good at that.
But the history of counterinsurgency warfare - and while we need to maintain the ability to defeat other standing armies, the likely role our military will play in this 4GW world is in something closely akin to counterinsurgency - shows that it is best defeated in a people to people war.
Our people have to be good a death-dealing, but they also have to be good at building water systems, drinking tea, and helping create schools. Those kinds of roles can't be outsourced to technology, and the reality is that 'outsourcing' them at all degrades the effectiveness of the military - because it is the relationships they build while doing those things that changes the local perception of them and begins to build a virtuous cycle of trust with the population.
There is no substitute for bodies in doing this. They need to be incredibly well-trained, lethal when called on to be, and as good as we can make them - in every sense of the word.
So yeah, I think Bush is binning it by not stepping up and increasing the size of our forces, even at this late date.
And yes, Robin, I know about the effectiveness cost - but the reality is that the war we're in is unlikely to end in the next three years, and if we haven't scaled up, we'll be in more trouble three years ago than we are today.
Finally, I'll suggest a simple point from poker playing that has some relevance now.
When your 'bottom' (willingness to stay in) is in question, your opponents get more aggressive in playing against you. The answer, I have found, is to buy more chips.
It's a clear and unambiguous signal about your intentions.
Today, as we're playing 'blink' with Iran, the idea that we wouldn't send a signal by starting the budget process with funds for - say - 150,000 more troops makes no sense whatsoever to me. I'd love to hear other folks explain it in comments.
« ok, I'm done now
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That's what I was afraid of.